For Brooklands' historians

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There is sometimes controversy as to where the famous Blue Bird Restaurant at Brooklands, so well-patronised by the aviation fraternity, was situated, before it was destroyed by fire just before the outbreak of the 1914/18 war. It is often said to have been in the Paddock but more accurately, we have always thought, in one of the sheds on the aerodrome. A splendid picture on the December 1977 issue of Aeroplane Monthly, showing Noel Pemberton Billing flying a Henry Farman biplane over the Byfleet banking in September 1913, confirms that the latter was indeed the Restaurant’s location. It is seen to be adjoining the shed of one of the Flying Schools and to have had a windowed-annexe in front of it, very close to the still-preserved Joy-Ride Booking-Office. Unless it is an optical illusion, this row of sheds appears to have occupied the line in which the T & T workshops, Parry Thomas’ bungalow, and other buildings were later, or have been even closer to the flying ground, situated, not that of those aeroplane sheds which followed the curve of the Byfleet banking.

Incidentally, the aforesaid picture accompanies a most interesting article about how Billing took his Aviator’s Certificate (No.632) in the record short-time of about 3½ hours, after a wager with Handley-Page. Another piece of nostalgia was the account, in the November 1977 issue of Aeroplane Monthly, of how R. Dallas Brett, OBE, author of the pre-war two-volume “History of British Aviation”, went solo in a DH Moth of Lympne in 1928 after only ten days’ dual totalling 5 hr. 20 min., at a cost of £12. –W.B.

V-E-V Miscellany. – The cylinder-bore of the Straker-Squire racing car which was the subject of a long article in last month’s Motor Sport is 80 mm., not 30mm. as published. A 1927 10.8 h.p. Clyno Royal tourer owned in the 1950s by the Editor of Motor Sport  has left Shropshire to join a Gwynne Eight in Kent. Bill Briggs, the new Chairman of the Road Locomotive Society, tells us that during or just after the First World War the motor manufacturers who used Foden steam-waggons included A. Harper Bean, who had three, Lagonda Ltd. of Staines and Humber and Standard of Coventry, while another Foden user was the Sopwith Aviation Co. A 496 c.c. Sima-violet cyclecar is being rebuilt in Hampshire and its owner hopes to hear of a handbook, and he also requires wheel-centres and locking nuts for it; these resemble those used on early Salmons. We do not know if this is the same Sima-Violet which was known to the VSCC some years ago.

The Chairman of the Historic Vehicle Silver Jubilee Tribute announces that the two-day historic-vehicle event held at Ascot and Windsor last May raised £21,221 for charity and that this has been donated as follows: Royal Borough of Windsor and Maidenhead Silver Jubilee Fund, £12,000; Transport Trust, £5,000; Motor & Cycle Trades Benevolent Fund, £3,000; All Saints’ Church, Ascot, £1,000. One of our subscribers of long standing, Mr. Hardwick of Dronfield, has sent us cuttings from the Sheffield Star about Sheffield-built cars. There is a picture of a car claimed to be the first ever made in Sheffield, designed by A. Willis Dixon, the Chief Engineer at Vickers, and built by Wilfred Wills, which took the road briefly in 1901. Other well-known Sheffield makes are covered, including the Richardson cyclecar, the Charron-Laycock, a coupe model of which the famous actress Dame Ellen Terry bought at the 1920 Motor Show, the Yorkshire Engine Company’s copy of the German Mercedes, and of course, the Sheffield-Simplex. There is a picture of four of the last-named cars, each one pulling two field-guns, in the drive of Earl Fitzwilliam’s mansion at Wentworth Woodhouse, a house said to contain 365 windows. It is reported that only those favoured by the Earl could easily buy a Sheffield-Simplex and that most of these cars found their way to his Estate; when war came in 1914 he was Colonel of the West Riding Royal Horse Artillery, hence this use of his cars to tow field-guns. All very interesting, although we do not agree with the caption to a photograph of a racing Charron-Laycock saying that it “was a remarkable success on Britain’s circuits” – there was only Brooklands in those days and about the best performance this car made was to finish 18th in the 1921 JCC 200 Mile Race, driven by Millward. The Bull-Nose Morris Club and the Morris Register held a rally last year to commemorate the William Morris Centenary, the cars present ranging from a 1914 Morris to 1950s versions. By special dispensation, 107 vehicles parked by the river at Stratford-on-Avon, their owners were entertained by local Morris dealers, and dinner that evening was taken at Nuffield College, in the presence of Mr. and Mrs. Alec Park, the Lord and Lady Mayor, and Sir Norman Chester, Warden of the College. Ken Revis proposed a toast to the memory of William Morris/lord Nuffield. The next day over 100 cars assembled at Cowley, including many Morris commercials, a Morris chassis, and two MGs, and in the driving test the Morris Register beat the Morris Bulls-Nose Club by one point.

Another three-wheeler has turned up and is being rebuilt in Staffordshire. It is a circa-1912 Matchless, in very poor condition, in fact just a rolling chassis, so that any information of any kind would be much appreciated by the restorer. Incidentally an article on three-wheelers appears in the current issue of Lord Montagu’s magazine, and there is an incredible story in a Yorkshire newspaper of 22 surviving L.S.D. three-wheelers and the prototype four-wheeler L.S.D. being owned by one man (except that two were stolen), with another L.S.D. in the Ravensknowle Museum. A rear-model 1919 Karrier lorry has been discovered on a Yorkshire raspberry-farm and is to be restored, one of only about ten of this make to have survived. It looks as if another attack will be made later this year by a vintage Austin Seven on the 10,000 mile record. –W.B.